Torrey Smith And Reggie Bush Change The 49ers’ Offensive Dynamic
- Updated: March 15, 2015
Last season the San Francisco 49ers brought in veteran wide receivers in hopes that would take them over the top. They re-signed wide receiver Anquan Boldin, signed Brandon Lloyd and traded for wide receiver Stevie Johnson all in hopes of taking their offense to the next level. But unfortunately, the additions of Lloyd and Johnson in addition to Michael Crabtree and Boldin were not enough to make some things happen and the Niners pass game stalled. Along with the criticism that quarterback Colin Kaepernick received, there was also criticism of the usage of the passing game. The 49ers had talent in terms of catching the football, but there was no one that could threaten the defense down field. There was something missing and the team just could not put their fingers on it. The 49ers finished the season 8-8 and did not live up to the expectations that were out there for them. And in the offseason, it seemed like things got even darker for the team. Along with the San Fran releasing wide receiver Stevie Johnson and letting wide receiver Michael Crabtree test free agency, the team lost one of its leaders, running back Frank Gore, moved on to the Indianapolis Colts and head coach Jim Harbaugh is now the head coach at the University of Michigan. Some wondered what the offense would look like without the 49ers having Crabtree, who when healthy is very reliable, and Gore. But little did anyone know the Niners were not only going to let those players go, but there were going to attempt to change the dynamic of the offense this offseason.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith has been burning defensive backs ever since his rookie season. The blazing-fast receiver out of the University of Maryland was an instant success with the Baltimore. His rookie season he was known for his speed and over time he became a more complete receiver, amassing 11 touchdowns despite having somewhat of a down season in yardage in receptions. Despite the dip in stats from 2013 to 2014, San Francisco saw something they needed and something they wanted to add to their offense. And this offseason, San Francisco brought in the veteran wide receiver and immediately his element of speed has upgraded the receiving corps. With him lined up opposite of Anquan Boldin, San Francisco now has a legitimate deep threat that can cause headaches for opposing teams. With his addition, Colin Kaepernick now has the first legit deep threat he has had to throw to. And with this additional threat, there could be some fireworks down the field with Smith. But also there could be some more things open underneath as well. Defenses last season did not have to respect the speed on offense because there was none out there. And because of that, that created tighter windows for Kaepernick to throw into. Of course Kaepernick made some mistakes with the ball placement at times, but when you have smaller windows to throw into and are still trying to develop, mistakes will happen. Smith will allow for receivers like Anquan Boldin and young guys like Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington to get open easier due to more space in coverage. And he will also allow for San Francisco to have a deep threat not named Vernon Davis, who was always expected to be the deep threat from the tight end position.
But not only did San Francisco add Smith, but they have also added versatile running back Reggie Bush. The veteran running back was released from the Detroit Lions this offseason after having an injury-riddled 2014 season. With the Lions, Bush was expected to be the main back of their offense. But even when he was healthy, it seemed like Joique Bell was the better fit for them. So the Lions jettisoned Bush and seem to be going towards Bell as their featured back. And as for Bush, he has moved on to being with the 49ers but in a different role. Second-year player Carlos Hyde is expected to be the starting running back for San Francisco next season, replacing the departed Gore. Hyde is a hard runner and will do well as the lead back replacing Gore, but Bush brings something the Niners have not had on offense. Even though the Hyde and the departed Gore could make some things happen in the passing game, their effect in the passing game does not compare to what Bush can bring. The veteran running back is still electric with the football in his hand, even as he approaches playing at age 30. And with the San Francisco, he will not be asked to be a starter. The best thing Bush can bring is his skills in the passing game. Even though he has aged he can still be electric in the open field and he can also attract attention from defenses. And with that happening, he will allow for less coverage on all the other weapons on this offense. One thing that could potentially happen with Bush as well is he and Hyde could be on the field together in some shape or fashion. But like always with Bush, there has to be concerns with his injury history. But the good thing is the 49ers are not depending on him to be the main back in their backfield. If they were, there may be an issue there. Ideally, offensive coordinator Geep Chryst would try to get him the football 10-12 times a game whether it be in the passing game or running the football. As far as the return game, he could return punts, but it is not for sure San Francisco will use him in that capacity.
Both Smith and Bush add something that was missing in the Jim Harbaugh era. The element of speed and explosiveness from these two could make this Niners offense better overall. Of course, health is always the case with Bush, but Smith can make this receiving corps better while adding an element. Ultimately, the success falls in how both these weapons are used and how Colin Kaepernick develops as the starting quarterback. But with what they have now, it seems that the weapons on this team are more suited to help Colin be a successful NFL quarterback. It should be interesting to watch how Colin and the 49ers offense appears this season.